by Brian Bennett
Now, as has become our custom,
we'll review some reader responses to recent Notes From the
World material before we move on to cover some new letters...
About traveling just after
Thanksgiving, Chip writes: Hi Brian, great site and
thanks for your quick response on theme park ticket prices.
Here is my question. We will be going to WDW and staying in
the concierge garden view in the Hawaii bldg.. I just was
curious and keeping my fingers crossed that the crowds will
hopefully start to thin out after our arrival on November
30th. Our stay is through December 5th. Even though I can't
change our dates, what do you think the parks will be like
during our stay??
Since you're arriving after Thanksgiving, you'll see a pretty
big amount of people at the beginning of your trip, but it
will drop off throughout your stay.
Reports I'm getting about this year is that you should expect
things to be busier than normal at least through mid week
(the second, third, and fourth), but you'll see a noticeable
About Downtown Disney transportation,
Pat writes: Hi, Brian, Thanks for the great site! I'd
just like to add a note to your response to Jennifer about
the Downtown Disney Resort transportation, especially the
drop-off / pickup being in the charter bus lots. I found this
not only to be inconvenient (especially at Animal Kingdom,
where it is quite a long walk to the lot) but dangerous! There
are no designated waiting areas, so people had to wait in
a numbered bus parking spot in the middle of the lot with
all the buses pulling in and out around you. This was very
dangerous with small children and tired parents.
One night we had the bus in the next
spot pull out while our bus was loading a handicapped person
and a line of people waiting to get on our bus was standing
between the two buses. It irritated me and frightened me every
time we used the bus. I wrote to Doubletree and complained
about it - got a free tin of cookies in response - but I still
will not go back there until the bus situation was changed.
My family & I stayed at the Doubletree
in May, 2000 for 6 nights. The hotel was fine, not as much
Disney magic, but having the separate bedroom was nice. It
should be noted that the Doubletree is the farthest hotel
from Downtown Disney (It didn't look like it was on the artistic
maps of the area).
Thanks for the note. I'd noticed that "load in the middle
of the parking lot" thing before, but never had to experience
Following up, Pat writes: You're
welcome! That middle-of-the-lot loading really left a bad
memory of an otherwise fabulous trip. I'd stayed at other
Downtown Disney resorts on a couple of earlier trips (1979,
1989) and at those times the hotels had regular bus stops
like the Disney-owned resorts do now. I guess with all the
hotels Disney has added, there just isn't enough room, but
it sure added to the "poor relation" feeling I got
during the 2000 trip (i.e. Downtown Disney resorts were just
'second cousins' and no longer considered part of the Disney
Thanks for a great site and all your
work on it!
I think there was a distinct change in the transportation
policy at the Downtown Disney resorts in the late '90s. The
buses that ran to the Downtown Disney resorts used to be standard
WDW Transport buses with the same painted logos and so on.
Now they are different. Perhaps they're still contracted through
WDW Transport, but I doubt it. I suspect that they're contracted
by a third-party provider and that's why they're treated just
like the offsite resort buses.
Erin shares: Hi Brian, in last
your update, you recommended someone look into staying at
some of the on-property resorts, including The Disney Institute.
I have stayed there and it was really nice, however, it is
not listed on the Walt Disney World Resort list at Disney.com
anymore. They will be tearing the buildings down and rebuilding
them as a Disney Vacation Club resort, named Sarasota Springs,
themed after the Sarasota Springs area in New York State.
It'll be a few years before they are ready for guests again.
I've heard that they have started pulling some of the buildings
I thought the Villas at the Disney Institute were still operating
as of now with only some of the buildings being knocked-down
I'll check into it.
I emailed Sue Holland, who happened to be at WDW at the time,
and Sue replied:
The entire Disney Institute (lodging) is closed. The golf
course & the restaurant in the golf clubhouse (can't
think of the right word) are open, but that's it. Maybe
the spa is open, too. But, nobody can stay there and CRO
doesn't know when they'll start taking reservations again."
So, there you have it. Erin was right and I was wrong.
Lori writes: Hi Brian, I just
wanted to respond to Cathy, who asked this:
"This may sound
like a weird question, but I've heard it discussed somewhere
before. It is about wearing duct tape on your feet when
doing all of the walking at the parks. My feet and lower
back are the things that give me the most trouble. Any suggestions
would be very helpful."
I went to WDW in September after having
chronic foot pain for the last few years. I think the most
important thing, after making sure you have good, comfortable
pair of walking shoes, is to make sure you take breaks throughout
the day and just sit and rest for 15 or 20 minutes. Those
breaks can make a huge difference in your comfort.
Regarding walking shoes, I would recommend
you visit a running shoe store if you've got one in your area.
There are many different kinds of shoes at a running shoe
store, including ones that are specifically walking shoes,
which is what you'd want for something like WDW. They provide
a bit more rigid support that running shoes, which are designed
to be flexible, so the walking shoes will give you better
arch support. Let the store employee know what problems you've
been having and that you need something supportive for the
theme parks, and they should be able to help you find something
with a great fit.
There are many things a podiatrist
can do for you as well. Mine has taped my feet for short periods
of time using a medical kind of tape, but something like that
wouldn't last for a long trip to the theme parks. There are
alternatives such as arch supports, custom-made orthotics,
cortisone shots, etc., so I would definitely encourage you
to seek some medical assistance.
Just try not to overdo it, ice your
feet at night to help take down any swelling/inflammation,
and have a great time!
back to our regularly scheduled email...
|Wendy writes: Hi
Brian! I've been an avid fan of the site and your columns for
quite some time now. I was reading your WDW Trip Planning Guide
and the section on whether
or not to buy a package struck a familiar cord with me.
I thought I'd share my insight on this in the hopes that it
might help someone who might otherwise not be able to afford
a long trip to WDW, especially at a Disney Resort.
I've found that it's been worth it,
for us, to buy a package because we can send in money every
paycheck up until, I think it was six weeks before our date
of arrival. Last time there were fiveof us sharing a room
at what was then Dixie Landings. I made the reservation for
the Deluxe Magic package for all of us (that is the one that
includes the meals isn't it?) and we figured out the cost
fiveways. Since we made the reservation fourteen months ahead
of time, we each were able to send in a check or credit card
payment, with the reservation number on it, whenever we wanted.
I basically only had to send in around $65 a paycheck to enjoy
six nights at Port Orleans and all the food I wanted along
with the park passes. It was as if I paid nothing for the
trip which is what everyone else said! And all at Christmastime
at that! Anyway, that's my two cents.
This time, we are doing the same only
staying at The Polynesian. It's still going to be around $65-$70
a paycheck but we are planning on staying 7 nights. This time
around we have opted to do the package without the meals but
with the two flex features which we can use for two meals.
It's a lot less and we found that with the meals included
we were never able to use up all of the money we put into
it ($55 per person a day is a lot, especially when what ever
is not used is rolled over to the next day). We had so much
food credit left over that we left the German Biergarten with
over 22 bottles of wine. Had to spend it somehow!
Our waitress was very happy, needless
to say, with that tip...
Your approach certainly may be helpful for some folks out
there. My own problem with it is just that I don't want Disney
holding my money that long (but then again, I'm a DVC member
so I suppose I'm a bit of a hypocrite on that one). :)
|Chris asks: You have
a hotel review section where people can rank the hotels for
WDW. I remember seeing a reference to it in one of the updates.
I am having trouble finding it- looking in the accommodations
section. I might be looking right over it, but can you help
point me in the right direction?
MousePlanet now maintains a bulletin-board-based
review system for resort and restaurant reviews. Be aware,
though, that the review system has only been up for a few
weeks, so I don't know how many reviews are now in the system.
Hopefully you'll find some help there, though.
|Following up, Chris wrote:
Thanks, exactly what I was working for. Is this linked anywhere
on your accommodations section?
|I'll check to see, Chris, but I think so. In any
case, there is a link to "reviews" up in the header
of every MousePlanet page (under the MousePlanet logo). By the
way, there's links to other sections of MousePlanet that are
well worth checking out there, too.
|Amie writes: Brian,
I have a big dilemma. I have reservations at Coronado Springs
at a really great rate (using code bbg)... something like $88/night
including tax. My husband is in the military andwe were on the
waiting list for Shades of Green / Contemporary North Garden
Wing. Well, the rate for that is $98/night. I just received
a call saying that the room had become available. We're staying
4 nights so it would only add about $44 to our budget. Our children
are three and six years of age and it's my husband's first trip.
Is it worth it to change hotels? I've been searching & I
can't tell if the rooms are really THAT much bigger.
What about the advantage of staying
on the monorail system? The Shades of Green operator said
that we're only closer to the Magic Kingdom and it would be
the same distance to the other parks via bus if we stayed
at the other resort. I have to make up my mind by Thursday.
For $44, I'd go stay at the Contemporary. The monorail access
will be very nice with small kids, and the rooms are significantly
larger than at Coronado Springs.
Hi, Brian, thanks for all of your great information. We are
counting down the days to our trip. Our only concern is about
our wonderful brother-in-law who is at a low point in his fight
against cancer. Things may turn around, but they may not. What
are your thoughts about trip insurance and have you had any
feedback on particular companies?
Thanks for all that you do for Disneyphiles.
I'm sorry to hear about your brother-in-law.
I've never really researched trip insurance because I've
never had the need for it personally. Given your circumstances,
it sounds like it very well might be worth while for you.
I'd suggest you go to a local travel agent and ask about
policies and overall background on trip insurance. They're
very likely to be completely up to speed on what's available
and what would make sense for you and your family.
Kate writes: I was looking for
rates to camp at Fort Wilderness Campground and could find
none. I went to the reservation area thinking rates would
be available there and all I found was reservation information
for renting a cabin at Fort Wilderness. Nothing on renting
a campsite. VERY Disappointing.
I'm sorry you were disappointed that you didn't find the
information you were looking for. Actually, the WDW
Resorts from A to Z page (in the section on prices) has
that information. I put it all on one page so that folks can
compare prices (and other amenities) between the various WDW
Also, this page has descriptions of the campsites on
the Fort Wilderness Campground Fast Facts page.
By the way, just a quick comment. MousePlanet is not affiliated
with the Walt Disney Company, so your sharp statement, "VERY
Disappointing," may have been misplaced if you thought
that my site was owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company.
Lin writes: Hi Brian, I'm taking
my family to WDW for the first time ever and I am addicted
to all the information and planning, including MousePlanet!
Can you tell me what the hours for
the fireworks & park closing times are likely to be for
February 2003 (week before President's Day). I know they're
not available yet on the Disneyworld site, but I was wondering
this might be something that is relatively consistent from
year to year. I want to try to schedule dinner reservations
for Fantasmic and IllumiNations & plan our days but can't
because I'm unsure of times etc.
Thank you so much.
You might want to check out the
page on general park operating hours. For February, you'd
probably want to assume the shortest possible park hours since
that's one of the least-crowded times of the year to visit
WDW. Also, keep in mind that Spectromagic and the Magic Kingdom
fireworks are likely only to run on Saturday nights during
that time of year.
Don shares: Brian, I noticed
a fair amount of information about the Amtrak Auto Train on
your wonderful MousePlanet site. You may be interested in
taking a look at the website that I maintain that provides
in-depth information about the Auto Train.
I'm not connected in any way with
Amtrak and the website is wholly noncommercial. It started
as a simple "riders guide" that I wrote about the
Auto Train when I discovered there was little such information
on the Internet. I take the Auto Train down the Florida each
year to visit my parents, ending with a visit to WDW, and
update the material as necessary after each trip. If you wish
to link to the site as a source of Auto Train information
for your readers, let me know.
Just after I sent you that note, I made the update to my
Auto Train page, along with a link to your site.
|Freecia writes: [For
that reader that wrote a while back about traveling to WDW with
a cast...] I saw a plastic "cast cover" for sale,
by the canes, at my local Longs Drugs. They're made of stretchy
plastic, comes in child and adult sizes, and are intended for
showers and such. If their child doesn't have a waterproof cast,
please ask the doctor about this option. It'd be useful for
showers/baths at home anyhow .:)
|Thanks for the suggestion!
|Christine asks: Hi
Brian, first let me say that I love reading your "Notes
from the World" columns! They have helped me tremendously
in planning my upcoming trip. We are planning to visit WDW for
the first time ever in February. We are staying in Fort Wilderness
Cabins (me, my husband, two year old son, and my husband's parents).
We just booked our room reservations after and through reading
the MouseSavers.com website decided to purchase an annual pass
to get a discounted room rate. We saved about $90 per night!
My question to you lies in what the reservation cast member
told me at the time of my booking.
She said, paraphrased, that you need
to get your voucher exchanged into an actual pass before you
check into the cabins or they will not honor the Annual Pass room rate.
She said that previously some people were able to check in
with just the vouchers but that it was discovered that there
were people buying vouchers and "renting" them out
to others for profit and thus allowing people to use the voucher
to pay less but not actually ever use it since the voucher
itself has no expiration. OK, I can see where that would be
a problem, so I asked where I could do that in the evening
hours in February (don't most of the parks close early in
the off season?) She told me that Epcot closes the latest
(9:00 PM) and I would need to exchange it there. I got to
thinking after I got off the phone with her that our flight
from Seattle arrives around 7:00 PM and with all the airport
and rental car stuff, we might not get there in time. Do they
keep the ticketing booths open right up until closing?
Is there anywhere else to get an Annual Pass
validated, such as in the Downtown Disney area like at Disneyland?
Or do you think that a 7:00 PM arrival is going to allow sufficient
time to get all of this done? Having not been there before
I have no idea what a realistic travel time is, nor any idea
how long it takes to get an Annual Pass validated (I have discovered
it can take up to an hour at six flags!)
I apologize if this has been asked
and answered before, I did a search of your site but couldn't
find an exact answer but I am pretty search-impaired :-/
Thanks in advance - and keep up the
What I would do is just deal with things at check in time.
Certainly the Cast Members can check you in when you arrive
"on the honor system." You could then stop by at
the office later (even a day or more later) after you've done
the voucher exchange to confirm that you have annual passes.
You can also get it handled at the Guest Relations offices
at Downtown Disney or Downtown Disney West Side, as you surmised,
but that doesn't make things much more convenient for you.
If it was me, I'd stick to my guns at check in, and just
make arrangements to stop by later in the trip to confirm
that you have Annual Passes.
|Kim writes: I'd just
like to throw in my 2 cents worth about when to visit the World.
My boyfriend and I were there this past September and I don't
think I'd ever go back any other time. There were NO lines.
NONE. We never had to wait for anything, not even Space Mountain
or Tower of Terror. We were able to get seating for a character
breakfast at literally the last minute. And often during the
day when we were going from the parks to our hotel or back,
we had the bus to ourselves.
As a result, we were able to cover
ALL of the Magic Kingdom in less than a day, ditto on MGM.
And we were even able to ride our favorite rides twice.
And the weather could not have been
better! It wasn't as hot or humid as I thought it would be
(I'm originally from New Orleans, currently living in Chicago),
and it only rained lightly twice.
I know that going to WDW during that
time of year isn't possible for everyone, but I would highly
recommend it if someone has the chance.
|I second your motion.
Actually, you really got lucky though. It's often VERY hot
and humid in early September... and if you catch it just right
(or just wrong) you can get some severe weather from a passing
Even so, I really enjoy visiting in September and October,
Well, I hope you enjoyed the reader feedback
for the WDW Trip Planning Guide! Feed free to send more questions
or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Brian Bennett's Disney Trip Planner
Click here to see
some awesome WDW pieces that have run on MousePlanet recently!
here to check out the rest of Brian's Archive, including all of the previously
published "Notes From the World" pieces!
always gotten email about the WDW Trip Planning Guide, but since we added
form to the site several months ago, the number of questions has increased
dramatically! I do my best to answer each and every question personally,
but I've noticed that a lot of the questions are asked again and again.
The question that one person asks might very well be the question that
someone else is wondering about. Thus this page!
reader email and feedback every once in a while, because the question
someone else asks might be the same one you're thinking about yourself!